I'd like to honor today a generous reader of Garden Musings who contacted me clear back on January 31st with an offer of a sucker of 'Polareis'. She was responding to my unlove for 'David Thompson' and felt that I should try out a better Rugosa. It arrived on Friday, March 22nd, just in time for a late Spring snowstorm, but I planted it out immediately under a milk jug and prayed for the survival of the little sprouts.
And survive it did, to bloom for the first time on July 7th. The plant is still only a foot tall, but putting out buds by the dozens, so it promises lots of blooms to come. The foliage of 'Polareis', as you can see from the photos here, is moderately rugose, medium green, and exceptionally healthy in the Kansas sunshine. That first bloom took forever to open, taking 6 days to go from showing color like the bud at the top of the picture, to fully open, teasing me every day with progress, but not enough until July 7th to blog about.
'Polareis', registration name 'STRonin', has a mildly double bloom (about 25 petals), which open up blush pink and then fade to perfect white. References tell me that my tiny bush will grow to 5-7 feet tall and wide someday, with occasional repeat bloom and that it is hardy to Zone 3. There is a moderate rugosa-like fragrance. 'Polareis' also goes by the names of Polar Ice®, 'Polarisx' and 'Ritausma', the latter its original name near the Baltic region. 'Polareis' is a diploid, the offspring of a cross between R. rugosa var plena 'Regal' X 'Abelzieds'. Bred by Rieksta in 1963, it was introduced in Germany in 1991, and then in the USA by Star Roses in 2005 as Polar Ice®. Although Suzy Verrier seems to have been involved in its cross-identification as 'Ritausma', she doesn't list the rose in my 1991 copy of Rosa Rugosa, nor is it listed in the first edition of Osborne's Hardy Roses or any other of my rose books. In the magazine Perennials, in 2001, Suzy Verrier did publish an article titled "Rugged, Riveting Rugosas" which does describe 'Polareis' "at the top of my list" and states that she believes it to be the same as 'Valentina Grizodubova'. It seems like this rose keeps getting passed from gardener to gardener and renamed each time it passes.
For me, I'll always remember it as Gean Ann's Rugosa. Gean Ann, 'Polareis' does bloom now on the Kansas prairie. Thank you again for the gift, and for thus inspiring the double pun in today's title.